Energy

Government subsidies have made wind farming a leader in the renewable energy sector.

It isn't just politicians tired of subsidies and environmentalists and homeowners who don't want them near their homes, they also catch fire more than is reported. 
Wind turbines catch fire because highly flammable materials such as hydraulic oil and plastics are in close proximity to machinery and electrical wires. These can ignite a fire if they overheat or are faulty. Lots of oxygen, in the form of high winds, can quickly fan a fire inside a turbine. Once ignited, the chances of fighting the blaze are slim due to the height of the wind turbine and the remote locations that they are often in.


Batteries are common in the devices we use - everything from electric cars to laptops. Unfortunately the last real breakthrough in battery technology was lithium-ion and it's been 25 years of not much since. We're no longer using a 386 PC but our devices are using that equivalent in battery power.

There are efforts to try and get the most performance out of this legacy technology and one effort is replacing the graphite traditionally used in one of the battery's electrodes  with a sponge-like silicon material. Silicon has more than 10 times the energy storage capacity of graphite. 


We all have some idea how solar panels work by now; a photovoltaic cell gets bombarded by photons from the sun, which knocks loose electrons that flow as electricity, hopefully while wasting as little energy in the form of heat as possible.

Beyond that, it's a topic of research in order to try and create panels that are less damaging to the environment while hoping to protect the environment.

Oddly, that might mean plastic. 


If you own an electric car, you spend a lot of time thinking about where you will recharge it - and how long it will take. In Silicon Valley, where electric cars are the newest fad, charge rage is leading to lost productivity due to hostile emails about someone being hooked up to a parking lot charger for too long. Being stuck on 880 is bad enough without being stranded too.

Chemists say they have synthesized a new material that could show the way forward to lithium-sulfur batteries and that could mean actually driving somewhere meaningful.

Methane is a simple molecule, it consists of a carbon atom bound to four hydrogen atoms. 

But it is the key component in the natural gas that has led to lower CO2 emissions in America and due to that it is getting some attention in global warming that was denied it when the cultural focus regarded carbon dioxide as a magic bullet to control the climate. 

Rather than simplistic tales of it being a runaway problem, like in some claims, its status is more positive. It hasn't really gone up even with the boom in natural gas and it has a far shorter life than CO2. It is also a kind of metabolic currency in many ecosystems.


Though wind farms are touted as a viable part of our clean energy future, those sleek turbines are made of a decidedly low-tech core material: balsa wood.

Like other manufactured products that use sandwich panel construction to achieve a combination of light weight and strength, turbine blades contain carefully arrayed strips of balsa wood shipped in from Ecuador, which provides 95 percent of the world's supply.

For centuries, the fast-growing balsa tree has been prized for its light weight and stiffness relative to density. But balsa wood is expensive and natural variations in the grain can be an impediment to achieving the increasingly precise performance requirements of turbine blades and other sophisticated applications.


Anti-nuclear activists have done everything they can to keep the best green energy available, out of America, continuing a successful blockade they got President Clinton to implement 20 years ago. Back then, they misstated the science and insisted any nuclear physics was going to lead to nuclear bombs. Today, they insist that, thanks to gigantic regulatory hurdles, including a Nuclear Regulatory Commission run by an anti-nuclear activist, nuclear energy is too expensive.


Wind energy advocates were pressing Ohio Governor John Kasich to use his line-item veto to remove what they called an anti-wind-energy provision from a tax-cutting budget bill – a requirement that new installations be built further away from property lines.

Critics of wind energy believe wind turbines nearby cause headaches, insomnia and other maladies. Environmental groups and wind energy corporations dismiss the claims as anecdotal evidence. The budget bill bring $400 million in tax cuts.
Hydrogen as a fuel source sounds wonderful - its byproduct is water and it releases no CO2. The problem is that compressed hydrogen is scary while uncompressed hydrogen means hauling a container the size of a bus behind your car.

Some people are okay with long charging times and short driving distances for electric cars so if the charging times are eliminated, distance may not be a problem. But adoption is tough - people don't want to buy something before it is viable but it won't become viable until a lot of people buy it. It's the technology variation on the chicken-egg problem.

Bright yellow fields of oilseed rape are a common sight at this time of year but what lies beneath is a lot more exciting.

Straw from crops such as wheat, barley, oats and oilseed rape is seen as a potential source of biomass for second generation biofuel production. Currently the UK produces around 12 million tons of straw and much of it is used for animal bedding, mushroom compost and energy generation but there still exists a vast surplus.